length

12 Days

difficulty

Challenging - Strenuous

trip cost

from $4120 pp

Icons / stylised / time Created with Sketch.

length

12 Days

Icons / stylised / difficulty Created with Sketch.

difficulty

Challenging - Strenuous

Icons / stylised /cost Created with Sketch.

trip cost

from $4120 pp

Self-Guided Trip

our walk experts

  • Overview
  • Highlights
  • CLIENT EXPERIENCES
  • Itinerary
  • Inclusions
  • Kumano resources
  • Exclusive Guide
  • similar walks

Overview

The Kyoto and Koyasan Trip

You will begin your journey exploring Kyoto, a traditional and beautiful city, then travel to the mountaintop village of Koyasan – an important destination for pilgrims on the Kumano Kodo | Continue on to hike the full length of the Nakahechi Trail

The trails of Kumano Kodo are a series of ancient pilgrimage routes, dating back over 1000 years, in Japan’s beautiful Kii Peninsula, an area also strongly associated with nature worship. At one time Japan’s imperial family and former emperors made the pilgrimage trips from Kyoto to the shrines of Kumano, one of Japan’s most sacred sites. We also combine the Kumano Kodo with a visit to Koyasan, home to 115 temples on a venerated Buddhist mountain and a chance to stay in an active Buddhist monastery.

The Kumano Kodo is a journey through a thousand years of Buddhist history and offers a window into traditional Japan that contrasts strongly with its hyper-modern cities. The Kumano Kodo’s rugged, forested mountains, quiet rural valleys, rivers and waterfalls provide a spectacular backdrop for hikers. The seasonal contrasts of cherry blossom in the spring and rich autumn foliage inject wonderful colour along the hiking route. Arriving at your destination each day the traditional local guesthouses offer reviving onsens and wonderful local food.

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Highlights

Get Ready For

  • Explore Kyoto, the culture and historical heart of the country
  • Visit temples, shrines and traditional gardens
  • Stay at a Japanese Buddhist temple
  • Learn about traditional daily rituals, join a spiritual ceremony
Robyn and Jan

CLIENT EXPERIENCES

ON THE TRAIL

Join RAW Travellers Robyn and Jan as they walk the Kumano Kodo in Japan to find out what they’ve enjoyed the most on this iconic walking trail.

READ: ‘A Sacred Journey’, Jetstar Magazine
Journalist Jayne D’Arcy discovers her inner pilgrim along the Kumano Kodo trail.

Itinerary

Daily details

IMPORTANT INFO

The Kumano Kodo is a popular walk and at certain times of year and guesthouses/hotels sometimes get fully booked. This itinerary is a guide to a possible route. Details may change and the actual accommodations booked may vary from what is written here, dependent on client numbers, wishes and availability. This adjustment with accommodations may alter the exact distance walked in a day so the itinerary should be used as an indication only to overnight stops/distances.

Day 1: Arrive Kyoto

Make your way to the historic city of Kyoto. This fascinating city was once the capital of Japan and the residence of emperors for over 1,000 years. Your time in Kyoto is free to explore this wonderful city. You may like to wander along the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove following the path through this natural forest of bamboo. Perhaps visit some of Japan’s most iconic attractions, the Golden Temple (Kinkaku-ji), Kiyomizudera Temple or stroll along the Philosopher’s Path.

Day 2 & 3: Free Days in Kyoto

Kyoto is a great city to explore on bike, or you might prefer to wander through museums or galleries or join a traditional tea ceremony. There are many fascinating sights and interesting things to see and do.

Meals: B

Day 4: TRAIN to Koyasan

Today you will make your way by train to the temple mountain of Koyasan. This secluded town is surrounded by the eight peaks of Mt Koya and said to resemble a lotus flower. You take a funicular railway up the steep sides of Koyasan and then a short bus ride which will drop you near your temple lodging.

In Koyasan you will have a unique opportunity to stay in a Japanese Buddhist temple and be part of the daily rituals and spiritual life of Koyasan. You will have a comfortable room and be served vegetarian Buddhist cuisine, Shojin Ryori. ‘Shojin’ is a Buddhist term that refers to asceticism in pursuit of enlightenment, and ‘ryori’ means cooking. There are surprising tastes and not only is it delicious but good karma too!

Meals: D

Day 5: Free day in Koyasan

This morning you will have a unique opportunity to take part in a Buddhist morning ceremony – the rich colours, smells of incense and rhythmical chants of the monks are enchanting. Afterwards, a walk around Koyasan with its 115 temples is a must. Be sure to visit Kongobuji, the head temple of Shingon Buddhism, the stunning vermilion Konpon Daito and Daimon, the majestic entrance gate to this mountain complex.

Perhaps the most interesting of them all is Okunoin, which has at its centre the mausoleum to Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon Buddhist sect and one of Japan’s most significant religious figures. This is set in a giant cypress forest surrounded by 300,000 graves of his followers and is an awesome sight especially if you walk it at night time when the lonesome paths are lit by stone lanterns – very eerie! There are also beautiful day walks around Koyasan if you feel like stretching your legs.

Meals: B, D

Day 6: Train from Koyasan to Kii-Tanabe

After the morning ceremony and breakfast, you will have time to continue exploring the village of Koyasan or perhaps join the monks for a meditation session. You will leave Mt Koya before midday and travel by a series of short train journeys across the peninsula southwards to Kii-Tanabe. The railway line here parallels the coast and avoids the steep mountainous interior.

Kii-Tanabe is the gateway town to the Imperial Route of the Kumano Kodo and a city surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on one side and mountains on the other. The town is also home to the Tanabe Tourist Information Center – your tour orientation will be scheduled with the staff here. This evening is free for you to explore the town – enjoy great atmosphere at the Ajikoji Restaurant and Entertainment District, and perhaps stroll down to the Ogigahama Beach for sunset views.

Meals: B

Day 7: WALK TAKIJIRI-OJI TO TSUGIZAKURA-OJI (17KM, 6–8 hours)

It is an early morning start today and after checking out and picking up your lunch box, you will take a 40-minute bus ride to Takijiri (paid locally), start of the walk. The first section of today’s walk will be a climb up to Takahara, a rural hamlet on a ridge, noted for its ancient shrine and a spectacular view over the surrounding Hatenashi Mountain Ranges. Reminders of the past, including Buddhist statues and oji shrines, line the route along the ancient highway as you climb upwards.

Leaving Takahara behind, you head further into the mountains along the old trail, past bamboo forest and then into the pencil pine. You continue to pass by reminders of the old highway, including an ichirizuka distance marker and the sites of old former tea houses, which provided rest and shelter to pilgrims up until the early 20th century. Continuing on you crest the Hashiori-Toge pass after a short climb. The trail then descends past the Three-Fold Moon viewing area from where it is a short climb to the small but famous Gyuba-doji statue. Your descent takes you along a cobbled path and staircase to Chikatsuyu, a small village and one of the few places where you can get limited supplies or drinks.

Your final stretch of the day takes you on a climb to Tsugizakura-oji and your accommodation for the evening. Nearby is a grove of giant cedar trees, some of which are reputed to be 800 years old. If Tsugizakura accommodation is full on your chosen dates or if you are travelling with a larger group, you may stay in Chikatsuyu instead on this night.

Meals: L D

Day 8: WALK TSUGIZAKURA-OJI TO KUMANO HONGU TAISHA (21.5KM, 9 hours)

Today’s walk will bring you along many forest paths and eventually some mountain top villages before descending to Hongu. The walks starts with climbs over a number of passes and there is a permanent detour in place due to landslides on the main path. There are few facilities on the first part of today’s route which is through the forest before eventually leading you to the shrine at Hosshinmon-oji. You will continue through small settlements and get your first glimpse of the great Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine and the giant torii gate in the valley below.

Kumano Hongu Taisha is the main shrine in the area, to which all roads in the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage lead. A long stone staircase leads to the sacred grounds of the shrine, located on a ridge and surrounded by giant cedar and cypress trees. After looking around the impressive shrine you will jump on a local bus (paid locally) to our evening destination at nearby Yunomine Onsen or Kawayu Onsen, charming little hot spring villages.

Arriving at your overnight location is a treat for tired walkers as the steam billows from the thermal rivers and there is the promise of a relaxing onsen after your exertions. The onsen thermal hot spring baths are an important part of the Kumano Kodo traditions with pilgrims performing hot water purification rituals in preparation for visiting the shrine. For us it will be more a preparation for a delicious Japanese meal in your accommodation.

Meals: B, L, D

Day 9: Rest day in Hongu Area

Today you can either completely relax and take in the local onsens or perhaps return to Hongu village for further explorations. If you wish to stretch your legs a little then walk back to Hongu on the Dainichi-goe route from Yunomine Onsen – this is a steep but delightful walk, passing some remarkable old carved statues at Hanakake Jizo, overgrown by tree roots.

Hongu village is home to the Kumano Hongu Taisha, one of the Kumano Sanzan, three grand shrines of Kumano, and head shrine of over 3,000 Kumano shrines across Japan. Kumano was said to be the entrance gateway to the land of Yomi, the ‘other world’, which spirits travelled to in Japanese mythology. Across the Kumano Hongu Shrine is the Kumano Hongu Heritage Centre, featuring a diversity of exhibitions on the Kumano Kodo – all permanent exhibitions and videos include English translations. Just nearby the centre you will find Oyunohara, the largest torii shrine gate in the world at 34 meters tall, signifying the division of the secular and the spiritual worlds.

Be sure to also visit the tiny Tsuboyu onsen in a wooden cabin at the centre of town in Yunomine Onsen, which is the only UNESCO world heritage listed spa and the oldest in Japan at 1200 years old! The bath can be booked for a 30-minute private bathing and works on a first come first serve basis.

Meals: B, D

Day 10: Walk Hongu Area to Koguchi (13km, 6 hours)

This morning you will take a short bus ride (paid locally) to Ukegawa to begin your walk. The Kogumotori-goe section is a fairly gentle trek with a climb and descent over a pass, and is mostly in the forested mountains with some nice ridge-walking sections.

The highlight of today’s walk is the Hyakken-gura pass, where a beautifully positioned Buddhist statue on a hilltop has a backdrop of the most spectacular views of the trip. The impressive Hyakken-gura look out surprises walkers with a lovely panoramic view of the 3600 peaks of Kumano. Take a moment to enjoy this stunning view, as pilgrims have been doing for over 1000 years.

The trail continues to rise and fall, sometimes gradual and the off time steeper when you continue towards the Sakura-jaya teahouse remains. The views from the Sakura-jaya teahouse remains down to the valley and across the mountains are impressive. It is said that when the owners of teahouses saw pilgrims approaching from far off in the distance, they would start to cook mochi rice cakes and boil water for tea, to have things ready to serve just as the pilgrims would arrive at the teahouse. From here the trail continues on a forest track and eventually descends into Koguchi, a small and isolated village surrounded by mountains and rivers.

Meals: B, L, D

Day 11: WALK KOGUCHI TO KUMANO NACHI TAISHA (14KM, 7 hours)

The Ogumotori-goe is the second day of a 2-day trek from the Hongu area to Kumano Nachi Taisha. It is one of the toughest sections of the Nakahechi trail and a big day’s walk so we recommend an early start as you begin with a 2.5-hour uphill climb up the Dogiri-zaka slope. Dogiri-zaka can be directly translated as “Body Breaking Slope”, and is an appropriate name for this 5km uphill section that rises 800m to the Echizen-toge Pass.

Afterwards you pass the Jizo-jaya teahouse remains to the Moja-no-Deai, ‘Abode of the Dead’. It is believed that the souls of the dead gravitate to these higher mountains, where spirits inhabit this section of the trail. The walk continues through forest and along ridges, the path ascending and descending, until at Funami Toge pass the Pacific Ocean spreads out before you.

From here the trail descends to the Nachisan sanctuary and the brightly colored Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine, another of the three grand shrines of Kumano. Also nearby is the wonderful wooden Seiganto-ji temple and the spectacular Nachi-no-Otaki waterfall, which is the highest in Japan and can be seen from far out on the Pacific Ocean. Tonight you will either overnight in Nachisan near the Kumano Nachi shrine or Kii Katsuura, a small fishing village approximately 20 minute bus ride from Nachisan. Relax and enjoy the completion of your extraordinary Kumano Kodo walk!

Meals: B, L, D

Day 12: DEPART KII-KATSUURA

Today enjoy a leisurely breakfast and then transfer by train to your onwards destination. Train tickets are not included and can be purchased locally at the Kii-Katsuura train station.

Meals: B

Inclusions

What's included?

Included
  • 3 nights accommodation in Kyoto (western-style hotel)
  • 2 nights in a Buddhist monastery in Koyasan (twin share, shared bathroom)
  • 1 night in Kii-Tanabe (twin share, shared bathroom)
  • 5 nights in traditional Japanese guesthouses (twin share, shared bathroom)
  • Daily meals included as listed in the itinerary
  • Luggage transfers on the Kumano Kodo on all trekking days
  • Briefing in Kii-Tanabe at the start of your walk
  • Bus ticket from Koyasan to Kii-Tanabe*
  • Pre-departure pack including Kumano Kodo guidebook, detailed notes, luggage tags and RAW Travel buff (1 pack for 2 people travelling together)

*Important The Koyasan to Kumano Kodo access bus doesn’t operate from 1 December to 31 March. Please discuss the alternative option with your destination expert.

Excluded
  • Local bus tickets (except Koyasan to Kii-Tanabe)
  • Train tickets
  • Flights to/from destination
  • Travel insurance
  • Single supplement
  • Beverages other than water at meals
  • Expenses and items of a personal nature
Kumano book and app

Kumano resources

Finding your way

We have researched and published our own Kumano Kodo Guidebook based on the experiences of many years of running trips here ( we were the first Australian Company to offer the Kumano Kodo) and have now supplemented this with our Walking app, designed to help you navigate easily on the trail showing your location in real-time without any internet connection needed. The app has many great features; it shows you weather forecasts localized for each of your overnight stops, and information on the location of each night’s accommodation. There are important reminders, safety information, videos, and emergency contact information for your route. It also has a unique audio feature that can tell you about places and points of interest as you approach them on the trail.

Kumano-Kodo-Destination-Guide-Cover

Exclusive Guide

GET INSPIRED

Japan’s ancient Kumano Kodo trails are nestled in the verdant mountains of the southern part of the beautiful Kii Peninsula, just south of Osaka. This lush and rugged area has been considered the abode of the gods and worshipped for centuries.

Our destination guide is bursting with all you need to know about walking the sacred Nakahechi pilgrimage route, the most popular and accessible of all the routes. You’ll love the peacefulness and tranquillity of the trail, the food (so elegant and refined!), the onsens (a cherished Japanese ritual), and the traditional family run guesthouses, full of character and charm.

Download Now

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Hiker on Kumano dead slope pass
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The Kyoto and Koyasan Trip - Kumano Kodo
The Kyoto and Koyasan Trip - Kumano Kodo
Kumano Kodo Accommodation
Kumano Kodo Accommodation
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The Extended Trip - Kumano Kodo
Rooftop of temple in Koyasan, Japan
The Kyoto and Koyasan Trip - Kumano Kodo
The Kyoto and Koyasan Trip - Kumano Kodo
The Extended Trip - Kumano Kodo

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

I just wanted to send you an email to thank you for everything. The trip was absolutely amazing, my husband has not stopped raving about it and we both agree it’s the best travel experience we have had. The hike was incredible, the house stays were beautiful and the food delicious. We just can’t thank you enough – we are so glad we decided to book with RAW Travel, it was just so easy and stress free. Next to the Camino!

Elizabeth Wilde, Hamersley (WA) – October 2019

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

A fantastic and well-organised trek. The trail is rugged but very beautiful. I’m absolutely delighted that I chose to do it, and that I chose to do it with RAW Travel. All of the accommodation was well chosen and the luggage transfers went like clockwork. The instructions I was given were very clear and I was able to get from place to place without any issues despite not speaking Japanese.

Matthew John Sayles, Balmain (NSW) – October 2018

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

The experience of walking the Kumano Kodo was fantastic. So different from the Camino but so beautiful and unique as well. The warm hospitality, the food, the onsens at the end of each day made it such a special walk. It’s definitely challenging but if you train and go adequately prepared then it’s a really great trek. And gaining my dual pilgrim status was well worth the effort!

Kelly Hawkins, Auckland (New Zealand) – November 2018

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

I undertook this trip with my daughter and we found it very easy to navigate our way. The hotel in Kyoto was very conveniently located across the road from the main train station. We both loved Kyoto. It took us four trains, a cable car and a bus to get to our accommodation in Koyasan but it was so worth the effort. Also, the cherry blossoms were in full bloom whereas they had finished in Kyoto. We had a great 4 days of hiking on the Kumano Kodo and enjoyed our rest day in the middle near Hongu. We didn’t get lost; it’s very easy to find your way. Poles for me were essential even without it being wet. We were extremely lucky to have no rain, the weather was glorious. You do need to train or at least have a good level of fitness to do this trek. On one of our walking days we didn’t see another person. Walking in the forest was beautiful. We saw one bright coloured snake. And quite a few hornets which frightened my daughter but didn’t worry me. We had no mishaps, loved the accommodation, food, onsens and the Japanese bathhouses were interesting. Highly recommend this trip and so pleased we did it. Thank you RAW Travel for ensuring everything went smoothly for us

Sandra Bowmer, Miranda (NSW) – April 2018

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Excellent itinerary enabling us to experience the old, new and beautiful of the Kansai region. Kyoto, Koyasan Nara and the Kumano Kodo trail cover a wide range of incredible cultural experiences, cuisine, history and landscapes. The accommodation on the hike was an authentic provincial Japanese experience with very friendly hosts and great food. The trip notes were perfect for a self-guided tour. We never had any problems with the logistics of the trip thanks to the notes. I highly recommend this trip for people who are keen to have a broad Japan experience.

Andrew Miller, Brighton (VIC) – November 2017

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

RAW Travel provided exactly the right level of support for an amazing trip. The personal contact with the RAW team during the planning stage and at the briefing night prepared us well. The recommended itinerary that included Kyoto, Koyasan and Kumano Kodo was perfect! The quality of the resources (guidebooks etc.) was exceptional and made the self-guide experience just perfect. Thank you!

Wayne Forrest, Oatlands (NSW) – October 2017

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

Such an incredible experience and a real privilege to be exposed to both contemporary Japan and traditional Japanese culture – often in a very intimate way when invited into the family home. The RAW Travel itinerary was perfectly paced – like a slow immersion taking us further from everyday reality…everything a holiday should be. The trekking was breathtaking, challenging and very satisfying. Thank you Leanne for the thought and care which obviously went into the planning of this special experience.

Annette Tsindos, Hawthorn, VIC – July 2017

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

We had a great time in Japan. Everything worked perfectly. We had a transit night in Osaka followed by two days in Hiroshima to hang out at the peace park and a day trip to the island and walk up Mt Misen. Then to Kyoto – we loved it. Koyasan was a highlight. We got a local guide to take us on a 3-hour hike around the hills and we did the evening cemetery tour. Then off on the walk – got mostly good weather and really enjoyed both the walk and the rest day. All the accommodation was fine – each different and very welcoming. Final night at an odd but I suspect very Japanese huge hotel in Ki Katsura – it had a great onsen outside overlooking the sea and nice coffee shop near the ferry. Everywhere we stayed we had great food and I mean really great. The lunches for the walk were also really good. A great holiday and we would not have found those places and had those experiences ourselves. Thanks for your help.

Frances Diver & Gaye McCulloch, VIC – April 2017

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

I loved it all. To experience such an ancient tradition as the Kumano Kodo trek was a privilege, with the local cuisine a bonus. Koyasan was an absolute gem – who would think that half a day in a cemetery could be so engrossing! And the temple cuisine – absolutely stunning. Kyoto at peak cherry blossom time was stunning and I loved the way the Japanese people enjoyed this special time. I loved the Japanese people – so kind, courteous and helpful.

Barbara Madden, WA – April 2017

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

We have just enjoyed the Kumano Kodo walk and found that the organisation that RAW Travel put in place was top notch, not a single hiccup. The travel notes for the public transport were very helpful, and the public transport was an art form. The Japanese people were the ultimate helpful and charming hosts (we had not learnt Japanese prior to going, but  we will rectify this next time). The walk was heaven: early spring when the maple trees are bare and the plum and cherry blossoms are just beginning along the way – perfect. We were glad we spent 2 nights in Koyasan prior to the walk – there was so much to see, and it was snowing and beautiful there; warmer further south where the walk began.

May Tompson, Dunbible, NSW – March 2017

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

My husband and I adored every moment of the trip: from cultural Kyoto to meditative Koyasan to the sacred Kumano Kodo. All aspects of the trip, from accommodation, meals, JR passes and the detailed maps and track notes made an action-packed trip to Japan very enjoyable. Many thanks to the RAW Travel team for your diligent research and clear directions!

Heidi Auman, TAS – October 2016

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

We had a lovely time in Japan. Thank you very much for the arrangements you made for us. All of the accommodations were very good. Luggage transfers went without a hiccup. Variations to our itinerary due to an accident ahead on the trail in one instance and then the typhoon were expertly handled during our travel. We loved the Japanese guesthouses and our hosts at each were delightful.  The Kumano Kodo walk was fantastic. There were very few other pilgrims, so we had the trail pretty much to ourselves most of the time, apart from the odd snake. We were very very happy with the service we have received from RAW Travel and would not hesitate to recommend your to other travellers.

Tony and Jennifer Waters, Kingscliff, NSW – July 2015

Customer Star Rating of 5   

Customer Testimonials

The Kumano Kodo walk you organised for us was excellent. The walk itself was at times difficult and steep but we were fit and had no problems. We were mainly alone on the track only once meeting a large group of “real pilgrims” dressed in traditional Buddhist clothing.  At that point we had been enjoying walking in 1000 year old footprints and steps worn to glide under our feet, the Buddhist group made us feel that we had actually gone back 1000 years in time.

William Filson & Lilian Chan, Sydney – March 2015

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TRIP date selection

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Please select your preferred dates for on-demand trips or select a scheduled date for group departures. If you have booked a self-guided trip please understand that because your trip date is on demand and we must check availability of all properties on your chosen dates before it can be fully confirmed

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